How much about the world did the ancient rulers knew about?

M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
Arrian (cited above) describes Alexander's preparations, reconnaissance missions and ambitions with regard to Arabia as being tailored to sailing around and penetrating deep into Arabia, with a desire to conquering new mysterious lands both in Arabia itself and on the surrounding islands. This speaks to ambitions that transcended what the Achaemenids appear to have ever possessed. My partner conducts research on perfumes in the ancient world, and Arabia was mistakenly regarded as being a place replete with myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and other luxury trade items. Indeed, Arrian describes these products as being part of the appeal for Alexander. The problem is that many Greeks and later many Romans do not appear to have realized that Arabia and the surrounding islands were not producing these items, but were associated with these products because they were regions through which trade routes from south Asia crossed.
Arrian was writing over four centuries after Alexander, he might just as well be speculating.
 
Oct 2018
1,695
Sydney
Arrian was writing over four centuries after Alexander, he might just as well be speculating.
Arrian writes in detail about plans, preparations and reconnaissance missions in relation to the Arabian campaign, and he is known to have used accounts from the time of Alexander, namely those of Ptolemy, Aristobulus and Nearchus. Not everything he writes is necessarily reliable (like every historian), but if we dismiss what he says here as speculation simply because of when he was writing, we may as well dismiss most of his or any other account of Alexander's campaigns.
 

M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
3,333
Dhaka
Arrian writes in detail about plans, preparations and reconnaissance missions in relation to the Arabian campaign, and he is known to have used accounts from the time of Alexander, namely those of Ptolemy, Aristobulus and Nearchus. Not everything he writes is necessarily reliable (like every historian), but if we dismiss what he says here as speculation simply because of when he was writing, we may as well dismiss most of his or any other account of Alexander's campaigns.
We don't dismiss him, we rather try to corroborate what he says. If there's no independent source with which his accounts can be cross-checked, we simply check whether what he says fits into known historical events.

Known historical event: Alexander's conquest stopped at Indus.

Historical accounts say his army refused to advance because of war-weariness.

Another historical account say Alexander right away started planning on another full-fledged conquest, of Arabia.

Either, or both, accounts have to be wrong.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,599
Dispargum
We don't dismiss him, we rather try to corroborate what he says. If there's no independent source with which his accounts can be cross-checked, we simply check whether what he says fits into known historical events.

Known historical event: Alexander's conquest stopped at Indus.

Historical accounts say his army refused to advance because of war-weariness.

Another historical account say Alexander right away started planning on another full-fledged conquest, of Arabia.

Either, or both, accounts have to be wrong.
No, the war wariness and the campaign in Arabia are not mutually exclusive. It was the Greek component in Alexander's army that most wanted to go home, but as Alexander had marched farther and farther east he had recruited more and more non-Greeks into his army. Shortly before he died, Alexander had ordered his Greeks home. His plans to conquer Arabia were with non-Greek troops.

Also, three years passed between Alexander turning back on the Indus (technically the Hydaspes, but close enough) and his death just prior to the planned campaign in Arabia. Alexander had plenty of time to adapt his changing army to his evolving ambitions.